In the early 1900s, the Seashore Farmers’ Lodge No. 767 was a center of African American cultural life in the Sol Legare community on James Island in Charleston County, South Carolina. One of many mutual benefit societies in the Lowcountry, the Seashore Farmers’ Lodge provided a safety net of support to community members – help with home and family during illness, help with seed when crops failed, help with burial expenses when a member died.
Now, some 25 years after it fell into disrepair, the James Island community has come to the aid of the lodge, preserving it and restoring it to its original condition. After its grand re-opening April 16, 2011, the lodge will serve as a museum and cultural center, telling stories of African American life on James Island in the early 1900s.
Fraternal Orders: Mutual Benefit Societies
Fraternal orders, or mutual benefit societies, were an important part of African American culture in the rural Lowcountry in the early 1900s. Along with the church, fraternal lodges were focal points of African American community life, places where members could celebrate holidays and happy times, or find community support when hard times or tragedy appeared.
Members paid dues and could purchase crop insurance, health insurance and life insurance. When a member fell ill, other members helped with home and family responsibilities until they were back on their feet. If a member’s crop failed, the lodge would help purchase seed for the coming year. If a lodge member died, other members provided community support for grieving family members, and the lodge paid a death benefit if the deceased kept life insurance. Lodges maintained ties with other area lodges, further strengthening bonds among neighboring communities.
The Seashore Farmers’ Lodge No. 767 served the community of Sol Legare, an 860-acre settlement on James Island, so named because planter Solomon Legare maintained a plantation there before the Civil War. After the war, the Sol Legare community was settled by primarily African American homesteaders who purchased land and planted truck farms, growing vegetables for sale in Charleston and other area markets. Many of today’s residents of Sol Legare are descendants of the pioneer farmers who settled the community.
In 1915, the community came together to build the two-story lodge building on land owned by member Henry Wallace. For many decades, the Seashore Farmers’ Lodge served the community of Sol Legare. But over the years, the lodge fell into disrepair. Hurricane Hugo further damaged the building and destroyed many of the Lodge’s early records.
Now, history has come full circle as members of the local community, many of them descendants of community pioneers, have come together to restore and preserve the Seashore Farmers’ Lodge.
After an extensive two-year restoration project, the Seashore Farmers’ Lodge No. 767 will once again open its doors to the public, as a museum and cultural center. The lodge’s grand reopening will take place on Saturday, April 16, 2011, from 1:00 – 4:00 p.m. As part of the Grand Opening, the Palmetto Trust for Historic Preservation will present a preservation honor award to the members of the Sol Legare community who worked diligently to restore this treasure of history. To learn more about the grand Opening, please visit the Seashore Farmers’ Lodge website, where you will also find hundreds of photos that document the restoration of the lodge. The Seashore Farmers’ Lodge is also on Facebook.
Learn More on Blog Talk Radio This Sunday at 8:00 p.m.
This Sunday, April 10, 2001 at 8:00 p.m. the Blog Talk Radio program Nurturing Our Roots will host three community members who were instrumental in restoring and preserving the Seashore Farmers’ Lodge, Ernest L. Parks, Bill “Cubby” Wilder and Corie Hipp. Be sure to tune in to the episode, “Descendants of Community Preserve Seashore Farmers’ Lodge.” You can also call in to the live broadcast to speak with Ernest, Bill and Corie.
Below is a video created by the Seashore Farmers’ Lodge restoration committee, which tells the story of the restoration from start to finish. We think you will enjoy it very much!